A few years ago, I bought my oldest son a cool little kit that allowed him to send away for some caterpillars and then watch them grow into butterflies right before his very eyes. Then he got the chance to release them into our backyard after about 10 days. He thought it was really nifty, and I have to admit I did too. For such a cliched metaphor, the image of an ugly caterpillar stuffing its face and then burrowing down and emerging as a beautiful butterfly* is a dead useful one for describing momentous change. This is probably because there are really very few instances of any other animal doing something similar in such striking fashion. Sure reptiles molt and birds change their feathers and frogs grow from tadpoles, but nothing captures the imagination nearly as much as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
If you are not fascinated by this process, I suppose maybe you check it out for yourself. It's a truly inspiring process to watch.
I say all this because I am about to use this tired cliche to describe my own life, not just because it has new meaning to me, but because it is almost literally the best way to describe things. For the last 10+ years I would say I have been an ugly, ambitious, frightened, slow-moving, impossibly conflicted caterpillar who has been meandering about this planet gorging on every possible influence that I could find, some good, many of them dubious. Yet, somehow in the last year and a half something has started to happen to me. I find I care a lot less about what's going on outside of me, in the literary world, with climate change and urban design, in the working adult world, etc. It's not that I don't see or care, but that I've started looking inward and questioning my motivations and precepts, and the values and biases that have lead me into the life I'm living. In short, I've wrapped myself in an insulating cocoon and spent a great deal of time peering into myself, trying to find what is my true motivation. In the last year, I've done a ton of random things, most unsuccessfully. I've been the CMO of a drone services company, started my own marketing consultancy, started and then gave away a Stephen King fan site (constantreaders.org, now run by the awesome folks at Derry Public Radio), published my first book, started the 40/40 Challenge, and my latest passion project My Book Sucks, a daily newsletter for Indie Writers.
That's a lot of stuff to pack into 18 months, but about 3 months ago, I started to see some daylight. I "woke up" and looked around me and saw that the world was much the same as I'd left it, but I was not. Something had changed in me. I was firmer, more resolute, more convicted in my values, my worldview, and my position in it.
All of these things I've done over the last 18 months, all this randomness, has gotten me to a point where I feel like I know a lot more about myself, where I want to go, and how to get there. As the butterfly has only one goal in mind, to replicate itself as often as possible, I have become remarkably single-minded, animated by the knowledge that I have lighted on an answer that is beautiful and right, as well as the realization that I have no idea how much more time I have on this planet and I have to make what time I have count as much as possible.
I'm sorry that this is vague; it's intentionally so. One of the few conflicts that have arrived out of my "metamorphosis" is how confessional to make this blog. I don't have an answer yet, but I'm working on one. In the meantime, I feel surprisingly sure of myself, and I truly feel like I know where I'm going and how to get there.
*That, interestingly enough, only lives for about two weeks and has the sole interest in having as much sex as possible so the species can replicate.